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Questions/Ideas/Ask the Mods > How can a male form an ideal feminist perspective for writing

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message 1: by Samuel (new)

Samuel Willoughby | 4 comments As an 18-year-old man, currently finishing high school, I have a passion for writing a wide array of stories, integrating themes that reflect our current culture shift.
Apart from most young writers, I aim to create non-fiction based on realistic stories formed from my small lifetime and the stories I have heard from others. A theme I consider important to the majority of my writing is that of giving a voice to female characters, to help raise awareness of empowering young women, or criticising any flaws I see in our current or past society.
I don’t intend to take the main perspective of a female character as I don’t believe that I have the experience to write from the inner-mind of a girl or women, and I acknowledge this fact.
But I ask of any strategies and advice in gaining appropriate views and skills to help portray a female character without disrespecting the image of feminism.


message 2: by Laura (new)

Laura Engelhardt Hi Samuel, the advice I’ve given other authors in my genres (Fantasy/Sci-Fi) is to swap the genders of your characters to see how it reads. We have the luxury of world-building and can play with gender in a way you can’t if you strive to write within a given cultural context.

That technique can still help you create more nuanced portrayals in contemporary fiction — you’ll just have to swap the genders back before you publish, and use the change more as a writing exercise to draw out elements of the scene and characters you may not have considered.

Authors are keen observers, and I think it IS possible for us to write outside our lived experience. I agree that it's smart to hesitate before attempting to narrate a story from the perspective of a MC whose life experience is extremely different than your own ... but I think it’s worth trying. Writing from different perspectives is one way to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and can at least help you gain empathy. Just be prepared for harsh criticism -- it can be easier for someone to rip you apart than to provide constructive feedback.

I don't know if you are asking specifically for guidance in how to conduct a sensitivity review -- I would definitely advise you to find beta readers who are willing to be critical, but constructive -- and to ask for their opinions on any areas of your book you worry about -- gender portrayals, cultural references, etc. To the extent you can find betas with diverse backgrounds, that can only benefit your work.

Unless you are writing about male-only societies, you have to include women in your fiction. Stretch yourself and write outside your comfort zone.

Why not try to write a 5,000-word story from the perspective of a woman? Maybe try the same plot concept and write it from the perspective of a woman, a man, then maybe characters from different races, socioeconomic classes, etc. than yours -- see how that tweak changes the story. That could actually make for a really cool concept collection if you hit upon a good plot & give you a way to showcase some of the issues you want to address without explicitly telling readers what you want them to think about the issues.

Best of luck to you!

message 3: by Samuel (new)

Samuel Willoughby | 4 comments Thank you so much, Laura.

Your suggestions have definitely helped to clear up a path for me to take towards my goal. And I will definitely consider the 5,000-word exercise, as it would definitely value my understanding of a female character developed within my own range of experience and knowledge. AND I agree that writers are 'keen' observers, so I shouldn't ignore that advantage.
Thankfully, I have a large array of friends of all walks of life, so the idea of conducting interviews with them, gathering outside perspective, will help indeed.

Thanks again.

message 4: by Kate (last edited Jan 15, 2020 07:52AM) (new)

Kate (katetakate) | 96 comments Hi, great advice Laura and Samuel sounds like you have a thoughtful considered POV. I have no real advise, other than in agreement with what’s been said.

Just to add another perspective on the point of feeling under confident about “sitting in the shoes” of the opposite gender to oneself. I highly reccomend John Marsden’s young adult books (I read it as a teen but as an adult re-read it and it’s one of those YA books that adults enjoy too) - from the Tomorrow When the War Began series, Letters on the Inside, So Much to tell you, - all those have main characters who are female yet the author is a middle aged male - I felt he “got inside the female voice” well and it opened my eyes to various situations outside living experiences and my frame of reference.
I met the author John Marsden he shared how his experience as a an English teacher for a while and also conducted youth writing workshops gave him inspiration and voices for his characters...so potentially you can find inspiration for girls and women around your circles and your characters voices will develop in your head. All the best!

Edit to add: John Marsden for a list of his books - Books I mentioned: Tomorrow, When the War Began, Letters from the Inside, So Much to Tell You, Checkers

message 5: by D.J. (new)

D.J. Lindsay | 15 comments I have been a member of this group since a few months after it was founded. Back in the early days I got my knuckles rapped for self-promotion so withdrew from contributing to it but have continued to read it and learn from it ever since, finding it entertaining and enlightening.

I am an author, an old geezer writing about a young woman (dare I mention Wren Jane Beacon? She has a website.) The novels tell about about a young woman who is a strong-minded fiercely independent young lady operating in the deeply sexist times of the Second World War. But it is also the time when women's independent contributions to society first became a major theme. Getting into her mind took me a long time and a good deal of assistance from female beta readers but in the end I would like to believe I have succeeded and now, four books further on, the process is a lot easier. But it still requires me to think and to apply lessons learned before putting fingers to keys. This is true of all writing, of course, but especially so when one is trying to bridge the gap between male and female perception.

The irony of my early departure from contributing was that I was trying to ask a question of this group's knowledgeable readership. This was whether the story told, describing a young woman standing up for herself and not taking nonsense from anyone, constituted feminism in a time before it was known in its modern construct. I never did get an answer and I'd still like to know. With the changes to OSS, might I ask again?

But as a contribution to the questions being raised in this thread, I'd recommend any male trying to write from a female POV, to have a strong group of female beta readers doing more than sub-edit but actually challenging the thinking going into the writing at every page. That way you stand a chance of getting towards a feeling for how a female perceives the story being told.

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